Forging magic banknotes for Jamie Raven on Britain’s Got Talent

I was honoured to be asked by Jamie Raven to design a £50, and later a £250,000 note for him to use in his magic performances on Britain’s Got Talent.

BGT £250K noteHonoured, but a little nervous. Forgery ceased to be a capital offence in 1832, but even so defaming the national currency is not something to be taken lightly. But Jamie’s an old friend so I thought it was worth the legal consequences. Out went Messrs Boulton and Watt (sorry lads, I know you started the Industrial Revolution and all, but move over for some proper celebrities) and in their place I drew Amanda, Alesha, Simon and David. I thought it politic to make Mr Cowell taller than Mr Walliams, but in retrospect, looking at the picture, I think I might have overdone the ladies’ swan necks.Here you can see Alesha’s reaction to my clever use of cross-hatching. People often react in this way. It’s embarrassing but I’ve learned to get used to it.

Screen Shot 2015-06-01 at 22.07.36

Seriously, the banknote was drawn with coloured pencils borrowed from my daughter’s art box! I tried using dip pen and different coloured inks to mimic the effect of the engraving on the original banknote, but it was so labour-intensive that I began to hallucinate…

I’ve known Jamie Raven for some years now. We’ve worked together at the Magic Circle and at various corporate gigs and weddings. I must also thank Jamie for introducing me to the Anstee Bridge Project, an organisation which supports Year 11 students who, for one day a week, require an alternative to school to ensure better engagement with education. It’s a project that’s dear to our hearts.

Congratulations to Jamie on his Britain’s Got Talent success. That’s the first time my art work has ever appeared on TV in a lemon!


Urban Creativity Workshop on 23rd May at The Proud Archivist

I’m delighted to announce the first Urban Creativity Workshop run by my wife Jacqui Lofthouse and her business partner Clare Barry. Together Jacqui and Clare are Paradise Road Project.

In the spirit of ‘a picture’s worth a thousand words’ here’s my take on what it’s all about.

Urban Creativity CartoonHowever, if you want to find out more about the workshop, which takes place at The Proud Archivist, an inspiring venue on London’s Regent’s Canal, do hop over to have a look.  Regrettably Jacqui is not offering special discounts for clients with hipster beards and tattoos. But, there is a substantial 20% off for readers of my blog, so don’t forget to use the code Spring2015 when booking or you can go direct to the booking page here.

The workshop is for anyone who really wants to get focused on a project, whether it relates to art, writing, a creative business or any other creative discipline. It’s a chance to switch off from digital distraction, to take an Urban Walk and be inspired by the city, to get good tips about productivity and to go away with an action plan to keep you focused. There’s a delicious breakfast and hot lunch from the chef at The Proud Archivist as part of the deal and cocktails with Jacqui and Clare at the end of the day!

Clare and Jacqui colour (narrow) (2 of 1)

If you go, hope you have a wonderful time! I can personally say that without Jacqui’s focus, drive, digital knowledge and business acumen, I would not have fulfilled as much of my creative potential as I have done. Short of marrying her, this is the best way of getting a shot of her coaching expertise and ferocious ambition – and I hear that Clare is every bit as inspirational! Do hope some of you get to enjoy the Urban Creativity Workshop and I’d love to hear how it goes.

Election night: a visual record

Election night is a great subject for graphic recording and I always like to keep a visual record of  the big event. It’s an opportunity to refine caricatures of lots of politicians as well as presenting a challenge of how to represent all the statistics in a clear and friendly way. The following images take us from 11pm till 3.30am when tiredness got the better of me!

GE 2015 1.The night began with an exit poll that, contrary to previous polls, gave the Tories a clear majority. Alastair Campbell’s morose expression reflects this, though to be honest he’s not the smiliest of politicos.

GE 2015 2.Lord Ashdown made the boldest promise of the night – followed immediately by his terms and conditions. He would only eat a marzipan hat (marzipan being a good Lib Dem yellow, presumably). And if Ed Balls was nervous, he hid it well.
GE 2015 3.Boris Johnson wasn’t much in evidence, which was a pity, as he’s catnip for caricaturists. And the Mirror was first off the block to voice a Labour lament. You can tell it’s getting late by this point, as I’ve renamed Michael Fallon, the Defence Secretary, as Richard Hammond, the Top Gear presenter. Well, tanks, cars, all the same thing really isn’t it?
GE 2015 4.I don’t know the name of the Midlands correspondent, but he had the look of an American Eagle. Alan Johnson looked surprisingly cheerful, given the way the declarations were going at this stage. Maybe he was congratulating himself for not standing as Labour leader when Gordon Brown stood down.
GE 2015 5.Both Justine Greening and Sadiq Khan gave very personal thanks to their constituents. Nigel Farage was caught in more sarcastic mode, blaming the tabloids for making a tactical mistake in telling their readers that UKIP’s threat was to the Tories.
GE 2015 6.Lord Kinnock is famous for being eloquent at the drop of a hat, and he didn’t disappoint here. I couldn’t keep up! The constitutional historian Peter Hennessey had a slower delivery, and so receives a more finished picture.
GE 2015 7.The Scottish votes were coming in thick and fast at this stage, and polls that nobody thought possible became a reality. With massive swings to the SNP, the question was being asked if the other parties would retain ANY seats north of the border. Alec Salmond was visibly purring, while in the Lake District Tim Farron gave a somewhat over-optimistic spin to the unfolding Lib Dem wipeout.
GE 2015 8.Ah, the dear old Swingometer: no BBC election coverage is complete without it. The unicorn represents one of the rare Labour gains from the Conservatives. Most of the action in London was in terms of Lib Dem seats being taken by the two larger parties. Jim Murphy gave a dignified adieu, having led Labour to their worst Scottish performance ever.
GE 2015 9.I know, that’s a lousy caricature of Andrew Neil! This was the point where my bed beckoned. By now, it was all but inevitable that David Cameron would be Prime Minister with a large enough majority to dispense with the Liberal Democrats, and that Ed Miliband’s giant stone, carved with Labour pledges, would not be installed in the Downing Street garden.

Your Country Needs YOU: visualising World War One

It’s often difficult to demonstrate what I do. Often the material I work on is sensitive or confidential information, or it might simply be so specific to the meeting where it was recorded that it makes very little sense to an outsider. However, I was recently asked to draw a sequence of cartoons to illustrate the outbreak of the First World War for ‘Trench Stories’, an ambitious, original play, put on by the students of the Anstee Bridge Project, with the help of Bounce Theatre.

Explaining the causes of the First World War has spawned entire industries and is notoriously complex. However, visualising makes it simple. Here it is in five pictures:


The heir to the Austrian throne is assassinated by a Serbian nationalist.

Serbia resists Austria

Austria demands reparations from Serbia; Serbia refuses.

Russia backs Serbia

Russia intervenes on behalf of Serbia.

Germany backs Austria

Germany intervenes on behalf of Austria.

France, Britain and Belgium involved

Germany pushes Belgium aside to attack France, who is allied with Russia. Britain, who has a treaty with Belgium threatens to counter-attack Germany.

So there you have it!

If you want to read a rather fuller version, Christopher Clark’s recent book The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914 is excellent, but long!

I would like to think that I would be able to convey any message, however difficult, through a handful of simple pictures. However, there are some subjects that are so abstruse, so controversial and so fiendish that they defy even me. I refer of course, to the off-side rule.

From my cartoon strip ‘Coach Kevin’, originally published by Greenstar Media.

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Good evening Professor Hawking

Me and Professor Hawking
I recently had the privilege of caricaturing Professor Stephen Hawking at an event organised by KPMG. I felt particularly proud that Professor Hawking was first in the queue for a caricature. My Dad is a Nuclear Physicist, so I had fun boasting about this one at home.